About this Focus
The Lewis and Clark Expedition's exploration of the American West from 1804 to 1806 was a seminal event in the history of the Pacific Northwest, a fact reflected in the region's place names. Today four counties bear the explorers' names, as do two towns, three rivers, several schools and universities, a wildlife refuge, and numerous other places along the route they blazed.
Much of this regional enthusiasm for the two explorers can be traced back to 1905, when the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition was held in Portland. The organizers of this world's fair, the first on the Pacific Coast, celebrated the explorers' role in extending the nation's territorial claims and in opening up a commercial passage between east and west. Like Thomas Jefferson, who organized the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the organizers of the 1905 Centennial Exposition cast their eyes westward towards the Pacific. They too dreamed of joining the markets of America with those of Asia. And like the Expedition, the Centennial Exposition marked a turning point in the history of the Pacific Northwest, ushering in rapid social, economic, and ecological change.
While Pacific Northwesterners celebrated the Lewis and Clark Expedition during the 1905 Centennial, there has been a more circumspect approach to the Bicentennial, which has been termed a commemoration, suggesting a less celebratory view of the explorers. Today there is a more subtle appreciation of the changes—both positive and negative—initiated by Lewis and Clark in their journey to the Northwest two hundred years ago.
We invite you to learn more about the role of Lewis and Clark in Oregon history by exploring the following primary source documents and Internet links.
Related OHS Documents